There’s a great churn happening in the Indian ‘rightwing’ today. Social media is rife with arguments that reveal a difference in opinion on the most fundamental of issues. Such differences have always existed but didn’t receive as much traction due to the prevailing political climate. However, as Narendra Modi’s hold over power strengthened more and more, such differences have come to the fore.
It’s not really a secret that there are multiple shades of ‘rightwing’ which, in reality, is much more aptly described as Non-Left. There is the ‘Cultural Right’, the ‘Liberal Right’, the ‘Economic Right’, the ‘Core Right’ and so and so. Broadly speaking, the Cultural Right and Core Right can be clubbed under one category as there is great overlap between the two while the other two can be clubbed together. For purposes of simplicity, we shall call the former ‘Mainstream Right’ and the other ‘Vikas Right’.
Then, there’s the ‘Reactionary Right’ which shares a lot in common with the ‘Mainstream Right’ but has a radical approach to politics and culture itself. It rejects the fundamental basis of modernity itself and lays the emphasis on traditional values and customs. Amidst all this chaos, there’s also the ‘Trad Right’, a prominent subsection of the Reactionary Right that has caused numerous arguments on social media. Often, the ‘Trad Right’ is also involved in virulent arguments with sections of the ‘Cultural Right’ itself and other sections of the Reactionary Right.
There are numerous other divisions as well but for the purpose of simplicity, we shall limit it to these three divisions: The Mainstream Right, The Vikas Right, and the Reactionary Right. The churn in the rightwing is primarily driven by the confrontation between the Reactionary Right and the Vikas Right because both these factions largely agree with the concerns of the Mainstream Right.
The Vikas Right does harbor great sympathy and wishes to live according to western values such as liberalism and secularism. Their main grouse with the Left is that they do not adhere to ‘True Liberalism’ and ‘True Secularism’. They are not against liberalism or secularism per se. The Reactionary Right, on the other hand, completely rejects liberalism and secularism. They consider these to be deeply Christian values that should have no place in India.
The same goes for ideologies such as Feminism. While the Vikas Right voices its support for ‘True Feminism’, the Reactionary Right rejects it completely. Feminism, in all its forms, is considered to be a malaise to society. The same goes for individual liberty. While the Vikas Right believes in the rights and liberty of the individual, the Reactionary Right emphasizes on duty and believes that individual liberty cannot be the basis of a functional society.
There’s also a great difference between the two factions in the manner in which they view Hinduism. The Vikas Right views Hinduism as a free-for-all laissez-faire affair where individuals are free to pursue spirituality however they deem fit. The Reactionary Right, on the other hand, considers Hinduism, like all other religions, to have a strict code of dos and don’ts that must be respected.
The fundamental differences between the two factions were captured perfectly during a recent exchange on Twitter. The argument followed from an article published in Swarajya Mag where the author argued that we should attempt to maximize the economic benefits of our festivals. The essential argument was we should use our festivals as an engine to boost our economy.
The Reactionary Right, obviously, treated it with derision and was downright disgusted by the suggestion that our festivals which have deep religious significance should be treated as mere occasions to boost profits.
While the Vikas Right continues to dominate the rightwing intellectual space in the media and elsewhere, the churn in the rightwing and its narrative is dominated greatly by the Reactionary Right. While calls have been made to ostracise the Reactionary Right altogether, such efforts have proven to be utterly futile.
Despite objections from certain quarters, the narrative on the Right has continued to shift in favour of the Reactionary Right. For instance, it is nearly impossible now to be a ‘beefeater and proud’, unlike how it was only a couple of years ago or so.
One reason for this is that the opinions of the Reactionary Right are much more similar to the overwhelming majority of Hindus in India. It is a fact that most Hindus couldn’t care less about liberalism and secularism. It is a fact that such ideas have popularity only among a specific class of people. The vast majority of Indians do not care about such things.
The reasons for these differences go much deeper. The Vikas Right is made up mostly of people who grew up in an era of Western dominance. On the other hand, most of the Reactionary Right are younger and have grown up in an era of Western decadence. The manner in which Western society today is on the verge of collapse has had a great impact on how the Indian youth today perceives values such as liberalism and secularism.
The Reactionary Right has often been compared to the ‘AltRight’ in the United States, however, that is a wildly wrong comparison. The comparison isn’t justified for the same reason that clubbing Hinduism and Christianity together isn’t justified. One is based strictly on race while the other is based on religion and culture.
While there may be a significant difference of opinions between the Reactionary Right and Vikas Right, the fact of the matter is, the latter has paved the way for the former in more ways than one. It is as much due to the scathing criticism of the Left by the Vikas Right that the Reactionary Right got the opportunity to introduce more radical opinions into the debate.
While some people on the Vikas Right may be loathed to admit it but the fact of the matter is, the Reactionary Right has succeeded in shifting the ‘rightwing’ narrative further to the right with each successive turn. The ‘rightwing’ of today is much much further to the right than it was a couple of years ago.
The clearest evidence of it is the rise and rise of Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Until 2015, he was a fringe figure often dubbed a Hindu extremist. In quite a remarkable turn of events, the same comments which resulted in him being branded as fringe by even the Indian rightwing were responsible to him becoming one of the most popular leaders of the BJP at the national level, arguably the third most popular leader after the Modi-Shah duo. And the one group on social media which played the biggest role in mainstreaming him was the Reactionary Right. Everyone else eventually came around to supporting him later on.
Going forward, one would hope that there will be a synthesis of sorts between the two camps. However, that appears to be unlikely. It remains to be seen how things pan out in the next few years or so. But one thing is for certain, these differences are irreconcilable.
Having said that, the Reactionary Right isn’t one uniform tent either. There are lots of separate and divergent factions within the ranks. Just as the rightwing at large can be defined by its opposition to the Left, the Reactionary Right can be defined by its opposition to the Vikas Right.